“Evergreen: The road to legalization in Washington” was a hit when screened Sunday night at the home of TV travel guru Rick Steves, and hopefully will be coming soon to your cable TV screen or a Seattle movie screen. After all, the Emerald City hosts, in Hempfest, the largest marijuana legalization event in North America. “The film isn’t so much about pot as politics,” director Riley Morton says of the 82-minute flick. It follows the 2012 campaign for Initiative 502, which sought to free one state from an odious, counterproductive, hurtful and vastly expensive aspect of the “War on Drugs” — arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The campaign to legalize, regulate and tax the growing and sale of marijuana to adults was mounted by physicians, lawyers, two former U.S. attorneys and the ex-head of Seattle’s FBI office. “It’s an important story,” Morton added. “What a groundbreaking change. What a huge problematic change. This was definitely NOT your usual stoners trying to legalize weed.” Indeed, at Hempfest, advocates of I-502 ran into vocal opposition from the medical marijuana industry, with shouting exchanges in what is normally the city’s mellowest summer festival. Morton and co-producer Nils Cowan were there to film it. “Evergreen” is, curiously, a film without an ending either happy or sad. The U.S. Department of Justice has yet to announce what it will do about I-502, which contravenes the federal Controlled Substances Act. Eight former bosses of the Drug Enforcement Administration have urged DOJ to head for a courtroom and overturn the initiative. After all, it challenges a 42-year-old bureaucracy that has wasted billions of dollars, arrested hundreds of thousands of people, and concentrated its enforcement efforts against the young and specifically African-American and Latino youth. “It ends in a giant question,” said Cowan. And it borrows a phrase coined by Ronald Reagan, as it challenges his successor: “President Obama, tear down this wall.” “Obama is about as far as you can go after being a stoner in high school,” joked Cowan, referring to the future 44th president’s self-described use of marijuana (“and a little blow”) as a 1970s high school student in Honolulu. The film follows, from beginning to end, an 18-month campaign. It shows the super-respectable opening news conference, the fiery debates at Hempfest, and goes on the road to Spokane, Wenatchee and Leavenworth as Steves stumps for the initiative. I-502 penetrated the “Cascade Curtain” and won in places like Ferry, Okanogan and Whitman counties. The interviews range from campaign director (and ACLU drug policy director) Alison Holcomb to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes; from Don Pierce of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to Stranger city editor Dominic Holden; from ex-FBI agent-in-charge Charles Mandigo to Hempfest co-founder Vivian McPeak; as well as “marijuana suppliers and pot related businesses,” and “drug dealers and local citizens on the street.” “Evergreen” was a hand-to-mouth operation. Steves sent out an appeal for money to finish the project, which was completed, in Cowan’s words, with “a gift donation from Europe through the back door.” No strings were attached to the needed dollars. The co-producers are now seeking a distributor who will give “Evergreen” a national audience. They predict it will be seen “late spring to early summer.” Inaccurate to the point of self-parody and hilarity, the anti-marijuana movie “Reefer Madness” was nonetheless a promotional vehicle for the “War on Drugs” that President Richard Nixon launched in 1970. It sent thousands of people to jail. Nixon, of course, received a presidential pardon for his crimes in office. “Evergreen” deserves a national audience. It shows a path to common sense after a decades-long march of folly.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
"Legalizing marijuana: Initiative 502 — The movie" (with video)
Joel Connelly (seattlepi.com) with video (02:39):